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Denise D. Resnik

When their young son, Matt, was diagnosed with autism, Rob and Denise Resnik had a choice: institutionalize their son, as the doctors recommended, or love and care for him in their home and commit to a lifetime of support.

Their journey started there, and as you fast forward to today, Denise has taken her role as Matt’s mother and become a catalyst for creating an entire community of support for individuals with autism and their families in Phoenix, influencing other communities across North America.

Nearly 20 years ago, Denise, along with another mother, and Dr. Raun Melmed founded SARC (originally with only one “R”) to answer questions, question answers, and provide support to families daily, and throughout their marathon journeys of life with autism. While resources and support were part of the original intent, the name focused first on research and then expanded with the addition of another “R”-creating our current acronym, SARRC.

“I was compelled to co-found SARRC because our family, like so many others, had more questions than answers, and we needed those answers today, tonight, and this school year,” said Denise. “We needed help navigating this uncharted territory. And, most importantly, we needed to create a future we could look forward to and not fear.”

In 2012, Denise also founded a sister nonprofit to SARRC, First Place AZ®, which is ensuring that housing and community options are as bountiful for adults with autism and other disabilities as they are for everyone else. First Place is setting the standard for developing communities that integrate adults with autism and other “special abilities” into the fabric of society through housing, employment, healthcare, lifelong education, supportive systems, and culture.

“I founded the separate nonprofit to complement SARRC’s services and address the looming question for families everywhere, including our own: who will care for Matt when we’re no longer able to do so?” said Denise.

In addition to her nonprofit community leadership and support of many national autism organizations, Denise also leads DRA Collective, a public relations and marketing firm she founded in 1986.

Denise’s husband, Rob, an attorney and the “father of fun,” has dedicated himself full-time to working with Matt and his business, SMILE® Biscotti. SMILE, which is sold in many locations including Peet’s Coffee in Sky Harbor Airport, stands for Supporting Matt’s Independent Living Enterprise. Denise also supports several national autism organizations and serves as a volunteer board member of the Arizona Community Foundation.

One of SARRC’s most ardent supporters, Denise, is a proud member of the Legacy Circle, a dedicated group of individuals who have pledged support to SARRC’s endowment fund.

“As I see the young children and their parents bursting through the front doors of SARRC, I recognize the extraordinary opportunity SARRC and our community provide,” said Denise. “Through our gift and that of others, we hope to continue the important work of SARRC for as long it’s needed.”

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Legacy Circle member and ensuring the continued vitality and growth of SARRC’s services from one generation to the next, please contact Beth Salazar at [email protected] or 602-340-8717, ext. 1039.